- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2000

China's most powerful general warned yesterday that any moves toward independence by Taiwan would lead to war.

"Taiwan independence means war, while splittism certainly means that peace will not prevail," said Gen. Zhang Wannian, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission.

Gen. Zhang made the latest war threat to Taiwan and "foreign forces" a veiled reference to the United States during a meeting yesterday with military delegates to China's national legislature. He is viewed by U.S. defense and intelligence officials as the Chinese military's top hard-liner.

A member of the ruling Communist Party's Politburo, Gen. Zhang also repeated a recent threat contained in a government white paper that China would use military force against Taiwan if the government on the island refused to negotiate reunification.

Gen. Zhang's comments were the latest salvo in an escalating war of words between the mainland and Taiwan, which holds presidential elections March 18.

"The People's Liberation Army has the resolve, the confidence, the ability and the capability to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and will not tolerate or sit idly by as plots to separate the motherland prevail," Gen. Zhang said in remarks reported by China's official television.

"The PLA … will adopt all necessary measures to steadfastly smash any political adventurer aimed at splitting the motherland," he said.

The general's warning comes amid disclosure of an internal document of the Central Military Commission directing People's Liberation Army units throughout China to be ready for conflict with Taiwan and the United States.

The Aug. 1 report says that remarks by Taiwanese President Lee Tenghui last summer about holding state-to-state talks are "solid grounds for achieving reunification using military power."

Regarding the United States, the document says the Chinese military commission planned to release data on its strategic weapons "so that the United States will exercise some caution in decision-making and be aware that it would have to pay a high price if it decided to intervene in a military conflict."

"The purpose is to prevent the U.S. from being deeply involved if a war becomes unavoidable so that the losses on both sides of the Taiwan straits will be minimized throughout the war," the document states.

A day after the document was produced, China conducted the first flight test of its newest intercontinental ballistic missile, the DF-31. The truck-mounted missile represents a major step forward in China's limited nuclear arsenal and Beijing's public announcement of the test was unprecedented.

The military document was obtained from a U.S. government official, who said it was translated from a Chinese-language original obtained by Chinese sources. It has been reviewed by U.S. intelligence agencies.

A defense official said it is difficult to verify the document's authenticity, but it appears similar in tone and form to other classified Chinese documents.

A CIA spokesman declined to comment.

The 15-page document was produced by the Office of the Central Military Commission, the ruling body of the People's Liberation Army. It is called "Watching Closely for Changes in Relationships With Taiwan and Enhancing the Awareness by Military Leadership of the Current Situation."

The document states that Taiwan is the "last issue" in the complete reunification of China. "At present the foundation of a peaceful dialogue between the two sides has been destroyed, and the possibility for military actions has been greatly increased," it said, while noting that a peaceful solution is still an option.

The document also contains wording similar to a Feb. 28 article in the Chinese military's official newspaper that threatened the United States with long-range missile strikes if it defends Taiwan. The article said China is not Iraq or Yugoslavia, two recent targets of U.S. military action.

Gen. Zhang's remarks went further than comments to the National People's Congress by Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, who promised only that China would act if Taiwan seeks formal independence.

"We will not sit idly by and watch any serious separatist activity aimed at undermining China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, such as those advocating the 'two-state theory' or the 'independence of Taiwan,' " Mr. Zhu said.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin said on Saturday that Taiwan will face drastic measures if it refuses to joint reunification talks with the mainland.

"If the Taiwan authorities refuse for an unlimited period to agree to a peaceful settlement of cross-straits reunification through negotiations, then the Chinese government will be forced to adopt all drastic measures possible," Mr. Jiang said on the eve of the opening session of the legislature.

All three Chinese leaders Gen. Zhang, Mr. Jiang and Mr. Zhu said they wanted reunification to be carried out peacefully.

However, Mr. Jiang said the Chinese "cannot promise to abandon the use of force."

"The Chinese people are in firm opposition to any ghosts and evils, and any schemes detrimental to the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation … will never succeed," he said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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